IN THE process of saving lives, The Black Dog riders lost one of their own.
It was the words an American chaplain used to help motorcyclists like Mackay's Charles Linsley come to terms with the death of Barbara Thomas, during a 21-day ride across the USA.
While the death cast a terrible shadow, the fact all riders continued on the journey afterwards presented a message of hope and resilience to the world.
Mr Linsley spoke about his journey after returning back on Australian soil last week, and despite the tragedy, said the ride was accentuated by experiences that inspired him.
"There were huge highs and big lows in 21 days," Mr Linsley said.
"It was a hell of a ride in many, many ways.
"We are really optimistic Mental Health First Aid USA will be able to adopt the Black Dog ride."
The 65 Australian Black Dog Riders travelled to New York at the encouragement of Mental Health First Aid USA on September 10 for a 21-day journey to Los Angeles.
Mr Linsley said the American professionals saw hope in the ride, as a way to help military veterans and first responders open up about mental illness.
"They told us a lot of veterans become first responders, they join the police, the fire fighters, because of the camaraderie," Mr Linsley said.
"The difficulty is that the whammy that they get from military is often compounded by their work as a first responder."
While the veterans were revered, mental health organisations geared at helping them struggled to gain traction.
He said 22 veterans a day were taking their own lives in the USA.
"They don't have the degree of openness that we've been able to generate," Mr Linsley said.
"They're probably where we were six years ago.
"They want to do what we did in terms of using bike rides as a vehicle, excuse the pun, to get people talking with each other."
He said one of the most touching moments was when a man spoke to the group, and talked about how he used Mental Health First Aid training to get a work mate to hospital.
Three days later the mate called him and said 'If you hadn't done that, I wouldn't be here'.
"We all went 'wow', it makes the back of your neck prickle," Mr Linsley said.
"This was happening while we were riding.
"Job done, in terms of why we were there, just (helping) that one person."
He said the enthusiasm they were greeted with at each new town was something he'd never forget.
At times other motorbike riders even joined them for sections of the trip.
"We ended up being a group of 80 or 90 bikes because of one guy that contacted his mates in LA and said 'You've got to see this'," he said.
"It was just fantastic."
But juxtaposed against so much positive work, was the crash that killed West Australia rider Barbara Thomas and put her husband Steve in hospital, on September 27 at Durango.
"We had big conversations within the group about whether to continue," he said.
"(We had conversations with the families and the message was) 'You have to keep going, you have to keep going'.
"Barbara and Steve, they were really committed to the cause."
Everyone, despite their nerves, continued and wore pink armbands, one of Barbara's favourite colours, the rest of the trip.
"I think some of us were very cagey about continuing, some were quite nervous. If people wanted to pull out there was no criticism.
"That really was a huge
shadow over the ride."
He said they were helped by a chaplain who was an ex-Vietnam vet and keen bike rider who spoke with them.
"He put it very nicely when he said 'In the process of saving lives, we'd actually lost one'," Mr Linsley said.
A renewal of vows and a wedding followed the tragedy.
"In Memphis a couple married for 30 years decided to renew their vows at the Little White Drive-Through Chapel," Mr Linsley said.
"It was like a drive through KFC.
"You drive in and the celebrant comes in and you get married and you drive out the other end."
During the journey, riders also reflected on what was next for the organisation.
"It's got huge potential," he said.
"It's the next generation for the ride now because other countries and organisations are seeking our expertise and skills in setting these rides up. It's moving into kind of a mentoring role.
"Who'd have thought five years ago I'd be mixed up in this?"
With his Australian bike getting fixed, his next objective is just to get back out on the highway.
"It's hard, not being on the road," he said.
"I'll just go jogging with (Run for MI Life organiser) Jo Shanks this weekend instead."
Lifeline 13 11 14
Headspace 1800 650 890
Mackay Integrated Mental Health 4968 3893
Beyondblue 1300 224 636
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